"There is no doubt that large areas of land were sold to governments at extravagant prices for soldier settlement. Men who returned from the battle zone fired with enthusiasm to make good in a new life, were placed on land of the poorest quality. They were the victims of the sordid greed of grasping land-owners and speculators. The South Australian royal commission of 1925 which inquired into these soldier settlements found "that there was an entire lack of business acumen and foresight in regard to the opening up of the areas.
Many governments, including the anti-Labour Federal government, did little or nothing to protect the returned men from being fleeced in this execrable manner, and the report of the commission of inquiry presided over by Mr. Justice Pike discloses heartrending cases of ruined soldier settlers. It was impossible for them to make a living on the poor soil on which they were placed, and as each year passed the load of debt around their necks became greater. This chapter on land settlement in Australia is one of the saddest in our history. The extravagant and untruthful propaganda disseminated throughout Britain by the Bruce-Page Government attracted thousands of settlers, ex-soldiers and others to Australia, and many of them returned to their homeland, after years of work, ruined and disappointed men."
Frank Forde (Member for Capricornia), ‘Second reading speech: Soldier Settlement Loans (Financial Agreement) Bill 1935’, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 April 1935.
Katy Mutton is a Canberra based, Australian Visual Artist whose practice is informed by an ongoing concern around trauma and warfare and how these relate to our cultural identity and history. For more information on her artwork visit www.katymutton.com